Lukewarm Stove: Is Haniger Next? Pollock's Market, Realmuto, Syndergaard, Japanese Slugger, More

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Lukewarm Stove: Is Haniger Next? Pollock’s Market, Realmuto, Syndergaard, Japanese Slugger, More

Chicago Cubs

Although things should heat up on the rumor front as the Winter Meetings approach, whatever transactions are not complete by the end of the work week might be put on hold until the festivities begin on December 9.

In other words, I’d expect to see some action early this week and plenty of rumors through the weekend, but at some point, the interested parties might put finalizing things on hold until they can meet face-to-face in Las Vegas. Just something to keep in mind.

  • One thing you might expect to see go down sooner than later is another move with the Mariners. While their next next deal – shipping Jean Segura to the Phillies – is already agreed upon …

  • … you shouldn’t expect them to stop there. At ESPN Buster Olney suggests that they might try to rid themselves of the remaining three years and $57.5M due to 31-year-old third baseman Kyle Seager by attaching him to a more attractive piece like outfielder Mitch Haniger. The Mariners began the offseason claiming they wouldn’t trade guys like Haniger or Diaz, but clearly that was a bluff. Everyone should be considered available, and while Seager should leave you wary after two years of decline, Haniger should be very interesting to many teams, including the Cubs.
  • Although he’s not rated too highly, Haniger can play all three outfield spots, and his bat has been excellent so far (his 138 wRC+ would have led the Cubs last season). So fitting him into the Cubs lineup and outfield is an all-to-easy dream to dream. And to that end, Matt Snyder seems to believe the Cubs, Cardinals, and Rockies could all come calling if such a Seager-Haniger deal was offered – sending back a bad contract of their own to offset some of Seager’s salary – but it reads more as speculation (for now) than a serious rumor. Even still, that does seem like the sort of creativity that could make sense *and* be pretty exciting for a team like the Cubs, so keep it in mind.
  • [Brett: How about something where the Cubs take on Seager’s contract AND Dee Gordon’s contract ($27 million remaining), get Haniger, and send back Jason Heyward ($106M), some good young talent, and enough cash to net them the value of Haniger? The Mariners save money and get some young talent, while the Cubs get three usable players (including an impact bat in Haniger) for only a little more money than they already owed Heyward (this assumes Heyward’s limited no trade rights do not currently include the ability to block a deal to the M’s). It gets complicated really fast when you’re trying to rid a bad contract AND get a guy like Haniger, but hey, it’s time to be creative, right?]
  • At The Athletic, Ken Rosenthal paints a busy picture for the Dodgers offseason, suggesting that they might trade from their outfield depth, including someone like Yasiel Puig, who’s just one year from free agency, and/or their starting pitcher depth. And after that, they might make big trades of their own, including top prospects for targets like J.T. Realmuto, Corey Kluber, or Trevor Bauer. He doesn’t seem to believe they’d be major players for Bryce Harper, though that’s more about their expressed desire to remain below the luxury tax threshold, which … I don’t know, man. That’s a weird choice for them – and probably one fueled by non-baseball related decisions, which hurts all the more.
  • Joel Sherman says he’s surprised how many execs and agents he talks to still think Harper will return to the Nationals.
  • The Mets are still interested in trading Noah Syndergaard this winter and would prefer to replace him in the rotation with a free agent starter. In return, it sounds like a catcher and/or a center fielder are at the top of their list, but there’s not an obvious fit with the Cubs there unless the Mets love Ian Happ and/or Albert Almora, or unless the Cubs are willing to part with Willson Contreras. I’m not sure I buy the Cubs interest in J.T. Realmuto, but if they were to move on from Contreras in some big blockbuster (please don’t), they could probably do a lot worse than Noah Syndergaard. But again … no thanks. I love me some Willy. (Also, Sherman says the asks on Realmuto continue to be exorbitant. Also, more on Realmuto in a moment.)
  • Although the Mets prefer a free agent to replace Syndergaard, there are still rumors of big-time trades out there, as well:

  • [Brett: Still seems weird, doesn’t it? They’re gonna trade three years of Syndergaard – when they’re trying to compete – so they can go out and trade for another starting pitcher? Keep in mind: the Mets’ GM used to be Syndergaard’s agent. Just seems like there’s more to this story.]
  • The Braves could wind up as competition for the Cubs in the secondary free agent outfield market – the Andrew McCutchen, Michael Brantley types.
  • CBS Sports discusses the J.T. Realmuto market, but I’m not sure what we’ve learned is much help. For example, the rumor of a possible Yankees swap for catcher Gary Sanchez might lead Cubs fans to believe Willson Contreras could be a suitable alternative, but it’s important to remember that some ex-Yankees (Derek Jeter and Gary Denbo) run the Marlins, and could be more interested in Sanchez, in particular, than others. Similarly, the Marlins reportedly asked the Braves for Ozzie Albies – a 21-year-old middle infielder who was worth nearly 4.0 WAR last season and is under control through 2023 – in return for Realmuto, which is a very high price … but that could be due to their perceived desire to keep Realmuto out of the NL East. The true asking price on Realmuto, then, is difficult to discern. I still think the Cubs begin next season with Willson Contreras behind the plate.
  • For what it’s worth, Yankees GM Brian Cashman said the Sanchez rumors are completely false.
  • As one of the younger free agent outfielders, A.J. Pollock was always someone I was keeping an eye on, but at these levels, I’m not sure I’m very interested:

  • His defense may be better than anything offered by McCutchen or Brantley, and he may be younger than both, but I’m betting both guys produce more at the plate than Pollock in 2019 and cost much less than five years and $80M, so … right now, he’s not at the top of my board.
  • A 27-year-old Japanese left fielder, Yoshitomo Tsutugo, informed his team that he wants to play in the big leagues and they’re considering posting him this winter. Tsutsugo is a four-time all-star and was considered one of Asia’s top prospects by FanGraphs. In 2016, he slashed .322/.430/.640 with 44 homers as a 24 year old. In 2017, he slashed .284/.396/.513 with 28 home runs. And in 2018, he slashed .295/.393/.596 with 38 home runs. He’s known for his power, but is clearly an all-around hitter. It’s difficult to say how good he would be in MLB, of course, and if you try to ballpark the NPB as a league, it’s somewhere above Triple-A, but below The Show (and it’s more complicated than that because the talent level is more extreme at the tops and bottoms). Perhaps the Cubs, who are looking for some offense and could fit someone into the outfield depending on other moves, would be interested. We’ll wait to see if he’s posted, first, but Tsutugo could be a bit of a wild card this winter.

Brett Taylor contributed to this post.

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Author: Michael Cerami

Michael Cerami covers the Chicago Cubs, Bears, and Bulls at Bleacher Nation. You can find him on Twitter @Michael_Cerami